Using Inventive Problem Solving to Refine Your Business Practices

- - Business, Innovation

In today’s world where the race for corporate success and indeed survival is ever more demanding, most companies constantly strive to get ahead. Whether that’s ahead of competitors, technological developments, or customer requirements, the quest for making their best even better seems never ending.

Getting started

Most organizations recognize the need to start by examining business practices, and identifying potential problems. But with the pressure on it can be all too tempting to use problem solving methods which are familiar but also a little tired. Unfortunately, this isn’t the route to great innovative solutions. As Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

But how does an organization introduce a new approach to problem solving, in a structured and, yet also, pragmatic way?

TRIZ – a new way?

An increasing number of companies are opting for an approach called TRIZ. TRIZ is an acronym for the Russian, ‘Teoriya Resheniya Izobretatelskikh Zadatch.’ This translates into English as, ‘The Theory of Inventive Problem Solving.’ It isn’t really new at all as it has its origins as far back as 1946, when it was developed by the Russian inventor Genrich Altshuller and his team.

What is new is that TRIZ was originally mostly used by researchers and scientists. Nowadays, it is taught in leadership degrees online as a practical tool for defining and rectifying serious logjams in efforts to improve products, processes and business practices.

TRIZ – its stock is rising!

Fortune 500 companies are increasingly using TRIZ across the board. It is being used more and more as part of Six Sigma processes, in risk management and project management practices, as well as innovative approaches to refining business practices.

Using TRIZ is about incorporating different perspectives into the problem solving process. This type of approach has long been endorsed in theory, by the likes of motivational master, Abraham Harold Maslow. He once quite rightly observed that, ” It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”

Science, not art

TRIZ is a calculating concept. It’s not about group brainstorming sessions (which can be productive but are difficult to harness and more importantly, repeat). It’s not about spontaneous thought on the part of highly creative individuals. And it’s certainly not about blue sky thinking in its purest form.

TRIZ is rooted in rigorous analysis. Sounds slightly boring, but the depth and breadth of this scrutiny are in fact quite breathtaking. Using logic, data and research, in excess of three million patents were analyzed over a 65 year period.

TRIZ has used this analysis to identify problems which have already been solved. The common thread is that problems and their solutions are repeated over and over again across sciences and sectors. The researchers also believed that there were universal principles of creativity, which could also be identified and coded. These principles could then be taught, making problem solving a much more predictable process.

TRIZ also recognized that truly creative innovations often involve the application of scientific approaches outside the field for which they were originally devised.

TRIZ quick start

Using TRIZ, you take your own specific problem and read that across to a TRIZ general problem. You then match the general problem up with a TRIZ specific solution, and use the analysis of the TRIZ databases to develop your own specific solution.

Another important element is the removal of contradictions. There are two types, according to TRIZ:

- technical (engineering tradeoffs, where when one element becomes stronger and another automatically weakens)
- physical (also known as inherent contradictions, where an item is required to have two conflicting characteristics. A simple example is coffee, which should be hot to be enjoyable, but cool to avoid burning the person consuming it).

An important stage in the TRIZ problem solving process is not only identifying these contradictions but also eliminating them.

TRIZ -to be continued…

This is very much a brief overview of TRIZ – much more insight awaits you when you starting using the TRIZ tools. Trying out, “The 40 Principles of Problem Solving,” is a good introduction, and can help give you a competitive edge in your industry.


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